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We received a request to discuss CJ Anderson with the Denver Broncos, and his dynasty value. The Broncos have much uncertainty at the running back position, and the loss of head coach Gary Kubiak isn’t helping. How will it shake out in 2017? Let’s take a look at it.
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CJ Anderson has had trouble staying healthy throughout his NFL career. Anderson has played in the NFL since 2013 and hasn’t completed a full season yet. Last year he managed to play seven games before ending his season with a torn meniscus. Anderson had surgery for it, and it was repaired. Recovery from a repaired meniscus takes longer (six-eight weeks) compared to removing the torn piece of meniscus (meniscectomy; two-three weeks). The meniscus is a thin piece of fibrous cartilage that is in the knee joint, and covers the cartilaginous surface of the lower knee (tibia) to help protect and nourish it. It’s common to tear the meniscus, usually from a twisting motion. Adrian Peterson tore a meniscus and his knee got twisted in a similar manner that would tear a meniscus.
Depending on where the tear is located, surgery can take on more importance. The outer aspect of the meniscus has a better blood supply and heals better compared to the inner part. Surgery for tears in the inner meniscus can take on more importance. The length of recovery is longer for a repaired meniscus, as the torn piece of tissue needs time to heal, and depending on the location of the tear, it can take more or less time. The surgeon sutures the tear back in place, and that facilitates the healing process.
Removal of a meniscus can increase long-term concerns of cartilage damage as bone may come in contact with articular cartilage on the surface of the knee joint. This is the oft-termed “bone-on-bone” condition that may necessitate micro-fracture surgery or long-term knee replacement.
Specific to Anderson, that he had his meniscus repaired reduces the likelihood of a “bone-on-bone” condition and damage to cartilage that leads to a degenerative knee injury. It’s good news that he had a repair, but he took a lot longer to recover from it and hence ended his fantasy season in 2016. I expect Anderson to return in 2017, and he should be ready for OTAs. The question is, will Anderson fulfill his potential as an NFL starter?
Let’s take a look at Anderson’s production in the NFL since 2013:
Anderson has sustained an injury each year since 2013, ranging from a torn meniscus, ankle sprain, concussion and MCL sprain.
Many thought Devontae Booker would take over for Anderson, but he had a disappointing year (160 carries, 555 yards rushing, 3.5 YPC, three touchdowns). Nobody established themselves behind Anderson, including free agent acquisition Justin Forsett (87 carries, 291 yards, 3.3 YPC, one touchdown in nine games). The loss of head coach Gary Kubiak looms large for the future of this rushing attack. Mike McCoy is back as the Broncos offensive coordinator.
Here is how the Broncos rushing attack performed under McCoy:
In 2011, Willis McGahee had a solid year, finishing as the RB8 (249 carries, 1199 yards, four touchdowns). Tim Tebow provided a boost to this ranking that year, finishing 28th in rushing (122 carries, 660 yards, six touchdowns). 2011 looks like an outlier, mainly because of Tebow’s magical season that probably won’t be replicated by Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch. Based on the numbers, it looks like McCoy has guided NFL teams to an average rushing attack, and the loss of Kubiak has to be viewed as a setback for the fantasy performance of running backs in Denver.
So where does this leave Anderson? He appears to be the starter for now, but it seems likely the Broncos add competition for him. I doubt they will go into 2017 with Booker, Forsett and Juwan Thompson behind Anderson. Notably, the 2017 draft is deep at running back, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Broncos add one in the first three rounds. Anderson has an RB2 ADP (RB17, 66 overall, January 2017 mock). Based on past production, and assuming he reaches it, his ceiling looks like an RB2 at best. While it’s possible he could surprise with an RB1 season, a lot would have to go right for it to happen. In dynasty, I think he’s an RB2 at best, but he’s finished as barely an RB3 the past two years, so there is plenty of risk for his floor to fall.
Per Over The Cap, Anderson has a modest $3 million cap figure for 2017, but no dead money if the Broncos choose to cut him. I doubt he gets cut in 2017 but the Broncos have no dead money for the remaining three years of his contract, and that means Anderson could be easily replaced without any financial risk.
In dynasty leagues, I think it’s reasonable to inquire on the trade price for Anderson. However, I would only acquire him at an RB3 price tag. I think he’s replaceable and at risk of losing his roster spot. Anderson will need to have a big year in 2017 to justify his RB2 price tag or his value may drop precipitously. I can tolerate that risk for an RB3 price tag, but not at this current valuation. It’s possible some owners are tired of him, and will trade him for below market value. It’s worth asking but I have no plans to aggressively pursue him in the off-season.